- Players: Charlotte du Plessis (founder of Woman of Stature and MD), Lynn Hill (WOS director and Inspirational Speaker, Trainer and Life Coach) and Sue Moodley (WOS director and founder of Pluminco Trade).
- Business: Woman of Stature
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.womanofstature.co.za
When Charlotte du Plessis founded Woman of Stature (originally named Woman of Substance), it was because she wanted to create a network of women who could support each other and share skills as well as life and business lessons.
What started as a side-project soon consumed more and more time, until eventually she made the decision to sell her eventing business and focus on Woman of Stature full-time. Passion, purpose and business combined to not only give Charlotte a clear goal, but one that she could share with others, and that would hopefully live on as a brand well beyond her own name as the founder and current MD.
In 2018, she asked Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley to join her as directors. As an entrepreneur herself, Sue’s focus is the growth of the brand and platform, while Lynn’s background in training and her experience as a speaker will shape the training programmes that Woman of Stature offers its members and the public.
Charlotte, Sue and Lynn share their lessons in finding your purpose, pursuing passions and ultimately leading full and successful lives.
1. You are in control of your own destiny
Sue Moodley started her business 21 years ago with just R4 000. Her father had been retrenched, and they decided to launch a business of their own. He was a salesman, she a born entrepreneur, even at the age of 19. Today Pluminco Trade has supplied plumbing and building products to some of the biggest construction projects in the country, including OR Tambo International Airport and Emperor’s Palace Hotel.
“The key is to just do it,” says Sue. “I believe that there’s no excuse for remaining poverty-stricken, struggling as a single mom or relying on a man. There are so many ways to make money, so many things to sell. You just need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and make the change.
“It won’t always be easy. Our business still hasn’t completely recovered from the 2008 recession. I’ve lost millions, but I’ve kept going. I’ve dropped my GPs on certain things so that my product turnover is better, I’ve slowed some projects down, committing to four years instead of two years, but through it all I haven’t given up. We are in control of our own destiny. It’s important to remember that.”
2. Start by showing up
It was Sue’s desire to share the lessons she’d learnt, build up her personal brand and learn from others in different situations that led her to Woman of Stature. “We’re a multi-racial organisation that accepts members from 17 years up,” she says. “It’s incredible what you can learn from people when you’re in an environment where you’ll find someone who shares your background and culture as well as people who come from completely different walks of life. You just need to be open to taking it all in.”
This was exactly what Charlotte had in mind when she first founded Woman of Stature. She wanted to be able to network with like-minded women who shared her values, but also to create an environment where women could learn from each other and share their stories and experiences.
“We believe in self-actualisation,” says Charlotte. “I attended an event a few years ago and the theme was ‘Africans come uninvited’, and it really struck a chord with me. That’s what we stand for. Anyone can join us. Come and take a seat at the table — but what you do with that seat is up to you. Over the years we’ve seen that the truly successful people in life seize opportunities and run with them. They don’t wait for things to happen — they make them happen.”
3. Everyone has a purpose — you just need to live it
Much of what Woman of Stature stands for is upliftment. Sue talks about who you see when you look in the mirror each day, because if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to, but there is also a strong sense that no-one is locked into their current fate.
“We always tell our members to look beyond themselves,” says Charlotte. “Step one is networking. Once you start hearing stories that are similar to your own, you realise you’re not alone. From there, you can begin to share, learn and build yourself up, whether it’s a self-confidence issue, building a personal brand or finding your purpose. We all have a purpose, and once you start living that purpose you find success.”
Finding and living your purpose is one of Lynn Hill’s passions, not only for herself, but others, and has played a key role in the coaching, consulting and training she does for corporates and entrepreneurs.
“We often talk about finding our purpose, but that’s not correct,” she says. “You are your purpose; you can’t separate yourself from your talents and gifts. What we need to do is recognise our purpose, and to do that, you need to know who you are. What makes you tick? What are your gifts, talents and passions? What gives you joy?
“Usually, these are the questions that lead us to our inherent gifts and talents. When we learn to express these, we find our purpose. The real secret to purpose is that it’s innately unselfish. When we use our talents to uplift humanity — in whatever form that takes, from solving big problems to acts of kindness and compassion — purpose is achieved.”
For Lynn, people who fail to find their purpose haven’t come to terms with who they really are. “We get caught up in being competitive and comparative,” she says. “We compare ourselves to others’. We want what someone else has, and end up trying to copy a gift or talent, instead of being authentic to ourselves. Never underestimate your uniqueness. You are your most perfect at just being yourself. We don’t focus on that enough.”
At its core, this is what Woman of Stature offers its members. Charlotte believes that you can’t separate business from life, and if you want to run a successful company, you need to first lead a successful life. “It’s about you as an individual,” she says. “You need to develop everything inside you in the best possible way so that you can live a purpose-driven life.”
Interestingly, it’s clear from Charlotte, Sue and Lynn’s journeys that your purpose and passions evolve, and that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.
Charlotte left the corporate world to launch her first business at the age of 50. Her experiences as an entrepreneur as well as losing her mother to breast cancer led her to forming a charity and then Woman of Stature. The realisation that this was where her true purpose lay meant she then sold her business to focus full-time on empowering women. Lynn’s current focus is to share her message with as many people as possible, which she’s doing through her writing and speaking and Sue wants to share her experiences with other women to give them hope and inspiration.
4. Embrace a success mindset
Ultimately, organisations like Woman of Stature are designed to promote a success mindset, through networking, training and motivating or inspiring others.
“I believe a success mindset is a mindset of excellence,” says Lynn. “It’s a mindset where you don’t simply aspire towards excellent standards, but where you begin to normalise standards of excellence to a point where you embody them. It’s the belief that mediocrity is a sin.
“Once you embrace a success mindset, you move beyond a goal and acquisition focus and recognise that the means is as significant as the end. As a result, quality relationship-building happens as part of pursuing those goals.
“When we are able to move beyond the traditional idea of success, we also focus on significance: The fact that our success does not just impact our own lives, but the lives of others. That’s when we begin to make meaningful contributions to those around us and even whole communities.”
5. Success is a team effort
The reason why Charlotte took the step to invite Lynn and Sue into her business is because they were already exceptional women in her life. “We became friends through networking first,” she says. “There’s a lot to be said for first forming a friendship. You need to do business with people you trust, like and have shared values with. It’s one of the reasons why networking and joining associations is so important. It allows you to build relationships and trust.”
Like Charlotte, Sue had lost her mother to breast cancer, and the two felt an instant kinship, particularly as Woman of Stature supports the same charity that Sue supports, Breast Health Foundation. Once the relationship was built, it was natural for Sue to take an interest in the organisation, and even become an angel investor based on her experience with the brand and its impact.
“It’s difficult to build something from the ground up,” says Charlotte. “No one can do it alone. You need to be able to rely on family, friends and associates to build something that lasts. You also need to be able to exchange knowledge. We all have dreams, but if you’re really going to build a sustainable brand and business, you need the business acumen to back it up. We tend to focus on the great idea, and what we love and are passionate about, but need the business side too. The associations and networks that I’ve built up aren’t only about emotional support — it’s about that knowledge exchange. It’s about mentoring each other and sharing advice and lessons.”
“You need to give to receive,” agrees Sue. “We all learn from each other. It’s a two-way street though. Networking isn’t about what you can take — it’s about mutual growth.”
Much of what Woman of Stature does is built on this concept, including its Impact Circle training programme. “Impact Circle is a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme, and all the trainers are members,” says Lynn. “We’ve drawn from our own network, both to support our members who are in this field and to give everyone more access to each other.”
Through this vision, Charlotte, Sue and Lynn are planning to make a real difference in South Africa’s business, social and political landscape. “We’re fostering future ministers and presidents,” says Sue. “Shakira Chumara, whose goal is to be Minister of Health, says that her shift happened at Woman of Stature. We opened her eyes to a vision larger than herself. That’s the ethos of everything we stand for.”
“Our goal is to empower women to do the incredible things they were born to do,” says Charlotte. “And that takes a vision bigger than my own, and a brand that’s much more than just me. It takes like-minded people banding together to achieve great things.”
Be the change
Woman of Stature (WOS) is an organisation that was founded by Charlotte du Plessis in 2013. In 2017 she stepped away from her business to focus full-time on growing WOS’s membership and community impact. Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley joined WOS as directors in 2018.
Originally created as a platform for women from all walks of life that was committed to empowering women to live their purpose and reach their full potential, WOS has grown from a networking association and a member’s directory into an organisation that includes training and a speaker’s bureau.
Current training programmes include 5 Pillars of Empowerment, a corporate-sponsored, accredited Enterprise Development training programme, and Impact Circle, a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme. There is also a Speakers Academy, designed to train women who want to become professional speakers and entrepreneurs and executives who want to build their confidence in front of an audience, and the Woman of Impact Speakers Bureau, a professional bureau representing woman speakers.
WOS also hosts an annual awards programme, celebrating women across various industries and sectors.
Designing Her Destiny
Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.
In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.
“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!
I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.
Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items. Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.
I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”
Less admin, more of what you love
When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.
“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.
Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.
I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”
Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch
These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.
From creatives, to tech gurus and medical scientists, here’s how these African women have revolutionised their communities through their innovative and sustainable businesses:
- Portia Mngomezulu
- Nandi Dlepu
- Nthabiseng Ramaboa
- Ntombenhle Khathwane
- Sunshine Shibambo
- Mogau Seshoene
- Nontando Molefe
- Thato Kgathlanye
- Nothando Moleketi
- Allegro Dinkwanyane
- Sandra Mwiihangele
- Shakeela Tolasade Williams
- Reabetswe Ngwane
- Mabel Suglo
- Lucy Agwunobi
- Patience Maame Mensah
- Rachel Sibande
- Nneile Nkholise
- Nelisiwe Masango
- Sheila Afari
- Samke Mhlongo
- Kelebogile Mabunda
- Aisha Pandor
- Karabo Mathang-Tshabuse
- Zanele Matome
- Shingai Nyagweta
- Funke Bucknor-Obruthe
- Vere Shaba
- Khanya Mzongwana
- Portia Masimula
- Monalisa Molefe
- Nozipho Dube
- Rapelang Rabana
- Botlhale Tshetlo
- Lebo Mphela
- Sarinah Matema-Morgans
- Tsholo Wesi
- Theo Mothoa-Frendo
- Palesa Sibeko
- Mokgadi Mabela
- Sibongile Sambo
- Tam de Vries
- Constance Mapule Bhebhe
- Phendu Kuta
- Linda Mabhena-Olagunju
- Nobesuthu Ndlovu
- Regina Luki Kgatle
- Hlengiwe Vilakati
- Lilian Muhammed
- Bonolo Mataboge
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart, but that didn’t stop these 50 women from doing it. Across the continent, women have pursued entrepreneurship, some for the very first time at 50 years old, while others have never even been formally employed.
Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business
Embrace technology every chance you get.
A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.
The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.
In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.
More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.
“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”
Innovation drives growth
Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.
In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.
“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”
Innovation enables sustainability
Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.
“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”
Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.
“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn
The role of disruption in creating value
A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.
The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.
Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm
Team up with customers and competitors.
There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.
Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking
Know what your audiences are interested in
As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.
One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.
Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management